by Michael Patrick Leahy 26 Sep 2013, 4:12 PM PDT

A new poll released by Clemson University on Tuesday shows that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is the least popular Republican incumbent currently holding a statewide office in South Carolina.

Compared to Governor Nikki Haley, whose favorable rating is 70 percent, and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), whose favorable rating is 69 percent, Graham's lags far behind with a 53 percent favorable rating.

Significantly, Graham has a very high unfavorable rating at 36 percent, only 17 percent below his favorable rating. In contrast, Governor Haley's unfavorable rating of 18 percent is 52 percent below her favorable rating, and Senator Scott's six percent unfavorable rating is a whopping 63 percent below his favorable rating.

Clemson political science professor Dave Woodard noted, "Republican primaries regularly attract about 20 percent of the registered voters, and they are more conservative and more ideological than voters in the general election. It often happens that popular incumbents are derailed on the way to re-election by upstart challengers in GOP primaries."

Such a derailment is exactly what Graham's three announced opponents are hoping to achieve in June 2014's Republican primary election. According to the poll results, Graham has given his challengers several issues wherein he is vulnerable to attack. The press release announcing the poll noted that, when likely Republican primary voters were asked why they disliked Graham, "frequent responses were his lack of conservative principles, association with Sen. John McCain and tendency to compromise too much with Democrats."

Graham's challengers include Nancy Mace, the first female graduate of the Citadel, State Senator Lee Bright, and Richard Cash. In South Carolina, the winner is determined on the basis of a plurality of the votes rather than a majority. This means that Graham could win the primary with less than 50% of the vote if none of his opponents emerges as a clear frontrunner.

The poll of 500 South Carolina Republican voters who have voted in two of the last three primaries was conducted between September 18 and September 23. It has a plus or minus five percent margin of error.